In a career that has long valued experience, the transitional shift has made it necessary for that experience to be backed by higher education. Let’s face it, the days of only worrying about putting the wet stuff on the red stuff is over. We are now expected to handle medical emergencies, hazardous materials, and technical rescues. Plus we are needed to portray a level of professional confidence when putting information out to the public. I fully support moving the experienced people into leadership positions however, the times demand more than a high school diploma or GED.
There are several complaints that are heard when the subject of needing a college degree arise in a department. Most revolve around being unable to finance the expenses created by going to college while others refuse to accept that college education will benefit their career. The one excuse that bugs the crap out of me is “I won’t be compensated if I do get a degree.” Everything doesn’t have a price. In a perfect world, the addition of a college degree would add a monetary bonus however; making yourself more marketable and adding self-worth outweighs any dollar amount. No matter what the excuse, it is difficult to understand how a group of people who are able to adapt to any situation and overcome any obstacle just lay down and give up before even trying. Look up scholarships, seek out federal grants, get a second job, etc….. the paths to obtain an education are endless.
As someone who waited ten years to return to school, I had many fears and battled the obstacles however, in the end the piece of paper I received was only a token for the journey. The real reward was facing my fears and overcoming a difficult task. The review of subjects I hadn’t looked at since ninth grade added to my understanding of certain principles I use at the firehouse everyday. In addition, the reinforcement of my writing skills has allowed me to write better reports and performance reviews. Most of the degree programs will give you tools to help make better decisions in life and on the fireground. The truth about education is that it needs to be a daily addition to everyone’s life, not just leaders or officers. We harp on exercising our bodies and maintaining a ready status, the same goes for exercising our minds. Education is the key to the future of the fire service, as a leader you need to set the example and encourage others to better themselves.